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Metrum Acoustics prep flagship Hex DAC

  • The Octave was undoubtedly the rising star of the budget DAC scene in 2011. A NOS DAC design from Metrum Acoustics (Acelec Engineering) that was fast, exceptionally transparent and thoroughly engaging.  I didn’t review it formally as I felt Srajan’s coverage over at 6Moons said [pretty much] everything:  it offered an abundance of “wow” factor that many folk are seeking out around the AU$1k mark. However, the Octave demanded a quality S/PDIF feed. This bumped the total cost of ownership closer to AU$1.5k once a USB-S/PDIF convertor and decent digital coax were factored into the equation.

    Cees Rujtenberg is ready to pull on your coat once more, this time with his flagship Hex model:

    “Our new Flagship DAC is a continuation of the theme which began with the Quad. With the Metrum Octave we doubled the dacs over and above the Quad using a total of 8 high speed dac chip-sets, 4 per channel. The result was much improved resolution with lower noise and distortion.”

    “For the Hex we have doubled the boards and improved upon these attributes even further. The Hex uses 16 of these industrial high speed dac-chipsets, 8 per channel and operates in full differential mode. In addition it has 1 x BNC coaxial, 1x RCA coaxial, 2 x optical, an optional USB and AES/EBU input.”

    “Due to fully galvanic separation of these DAC boards, three toroidal transformers are used to feed the DAC boards, control logic and USB. Consequently, frequency response, distortion and channel separation are all improved.”

    Input sample rates possibilities extend further than the Octave too. ALL inputs will handle up to 24/192, except toslink which is held to a maximum of 24/96.  Outputs? There are both balanced and single ended.

    The price for the base unit is €2185.00 (+ VAT for purchasers inside the EU). Odd then that the chaps at have it priced at 3000GBP = €3800!

    The optional USB input (€168) promises not to be sub-par: it’s an OEM module from M2Tech.

    Due to a last minute delay with casework, the Hex will likely begin shipping in September 2012.  Before you all ask – yes, a review unit will be coming my way.

    Further Information:  Metrum Acoustics

    EDIT 18th December 2012:  I’ve reviewed the Metrum Hex alongside Srajan Ebaen and Frederic Beudot.  Go here for stepping-stone words and photos.

    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. John, I think you hit the nail on the head with the observation that you need to proceed this DAC with a ‘good’ source. These days, that means an excellent USB to SPDIF converter and/or a good SPDIF reclocker tacked on to your transport of choice. That adds some bucks to the equation, especially as the Metrum DAC’s start reaching to the ‘high end’ of the price spectrum. Not sure that the separate power supply idea is really necessary. Just adds more to the price

    2. Funny… I expected that a GOOD DAC (which includes a good anti-jitter circuitry: buffer mem, SRC, well-implemented asynch./DAC clock, etc.)would minimize the effect of jitter. In fact the better the DAC, the less depend on the source… It seems I was wrong.

    3. John,I would like to order the Hex, but am stuck out on a limb undecided about which ‘model’ to choose. I mean – the question of transformers – stock or upgraded. You tested the stock model,if I am correct, and it appears nothing left you wanting; S. Ebeaen had the upgraded version: his remarks are not entirely ‘conclusive’ one way or another as to the differences (at least on my reading). The most decisive judgment comes from M. Colloms, who puts the HEX in its stock version behind the Octave and then goes on to sing the praises of the upgraded transformer.
      As I have no chance to test before buying, own the Octave (which I have come to enjoy), I would very grateful for some kind of ‘nudge’ in one direction or the other – stock version or upgraded version. Basic reason for moving to the HEX: to get serious about computer audio.
      Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

      • Why not go with stock and contact Cees to see if an upgrade is possible down the line? IIRC the output transformers only sit on the single-ended outputs.

        • thanks for the reply. It appears – via the distributor in Switzerland – that a later upgrade is out of the questions (“technical difficulties”). Moreover, it seems that the first, or standard, version is being phased out … judging by the manufacturer’s site where we now read that the only unit being shipped, packaged for an advantageous price with the usb module, is with the upgraded trafo. So I guess it’s best to go with the tide.

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